The Bard SummerScape festival opens in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, on Saturday, July 6 at 8pm, with A Rite (2013), a major new dance-theater piece by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company. Co-commissioned by SummerScape and created by Bill T. Jones and Anne Bogart, two titans of American performing arts, A Rite commemorates the centenary of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring (1913) and its notorious, game-changing Paris première. The New York Times calls A Rite “a serious, intricate, multidirectional centennial tribute to a work of art whose spell it deepens.” Both A Rite’s opening night and a second performance on Sunday, July 7 at 3pm will take place on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River campus in the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.
As in previous seasons, SummerScape 2013 is keyed to the theme of the Bard Music Festival, which this year explores “Igor Stravinsky and His World.” Arguably the most important composer of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) first achieved international fame with the three ballet scores he composed for impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). At its now infamous Paris première, The Rite of Spring’s revolutionary sound and demonic paganism, as showcased by Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography, provoked a near riot. This extraordinary response foreshadowed the seismic impact the ballet would have on the course of music and dance; even today, a full hundred years after its first performance, the aftershocks still reverberate.
SummerScape’s timely new dance-theater piece brings together two key American directors: Bill T. Jones, “one of the most prominent and provocative American choreographers of his generation” (New York Times), and contemporary theater director Anne Bogart, a 1974 Bard alumna, whose awards include two “Best Director” Obies and the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Creative & Performing Arts.
Jones formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with his late partner, Arnie Zane, in 1983; as the New Yorker reports, “it quickly became known as a remarkable multicultural troupe of breathtaking performers.” Currently celebrating its 30th-anniversary season, the company has performed worldwide in over 200 cities to date, and continues to be, as the New York Times recently noted, “a company in beautiful shape.” Collaboration is central to the company’s ethos, and previous artistic partnerships range from Keith Haring and Jenny Holzer to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
The SITI Company was founded in 1992 by Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki to redefine and revitalize contemporary American theater. Originally envisioned as a summer institute in Saratoga Springs, NY, the company – now in its 21st season – has expanded to encompass a year-round program in New York City as well. After a recent Euripides adaptation in Los Angeles, Variety observed: “Anne Bogart and her acclaimed SITI Company have unearthed the vital, immediate drama within this classic. The result is essential viewing.” Like the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the SITI Company places especial emphasis on collaboration and cultural exchange, so their partnership proved a natural fit. “Working with Bill so far has been nothing less than miraculous,” Bogart discovered. “We listen to one another and then each of us makes bold suggestions.” With the support of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane’s Associate Artistic Director, Janet Wong, the two directors and their companies joined forces to produce a fresh response to Stravinsky’s revolutionary ballet score.
As Jones – a resident artist at Bard, whose abundant honors include two “Best Choreography” Tonys and a MacArthur “Genius” Award – explains: “Though the apparition of what was staged that night in Paris and the scandal of the opening performance confronted us regularly, we have – for the most part – tried to look past the scenario and engage the music and the 100-year-old discourse around it with as fresh and personal an approach as possible.”
To this end, A Rite explores the revolutionary context of The Rite of Spring, which premiered just months before the outbreak of the First World War, and at the dawn of Cubism, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Jones and Bogart have created a new libretto that draws from diverse sources to explore the ballet’s rich history and its lasting cultural influence: interviews with a distinguished musicologist who becomes a muse in the new work, words from soldiers returned from World War I, and writings on theoretical physics by the string theorist Brian Greene.
Set and costume design is by James Schuette, whose credits include the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Houston Grand Opera, and New York City Opera; lighting design is by Robert Wierzel, who has collaborated with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company for 26 years.
As a result, A Rite is, as the New York Times’s Alastair Macaulay found at the work’s première this past January in North Carolina:
“A remarkable, … haunting new theater piece. … It honors Stravinsky’s music. … The performers sing parts of it – a marvelous effect. … Nijinsky’s 1913 choreography is very much part of the mix. … The overlaps between acting and dancing are pronounced. … You’re continually struck by how prepared the actors are to move in the same rhythms and shapes as the dancers and how readily the dancers are to speak. … “We feel how much Stravinsky’s Rite has entered into our nervous systems. … [A Rite] is a serious, intricate, multidirectional centennial tribute to a work of art whose spell it deepens.”
All photos by Paul B. Goode
Saturday, July 6 at 8 pm;
post-performance discussion with the artists
Sunday, July 7 at 3 pm;
pre-performance conversation at 2 PM
For tickets, directions or other questions please call 845 758 7900
or go to: http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event.php?eid=117630